If you were like myself, a metalhead/punk in Northeast Pennsylvania in the ’80s, you heard of Overkill. The band’s instantly recognizable logo (a demon skull with bat wings and the band’s name in fluorescent green) was everywhere, and its t-shirts could be found in every high school. This surprisingly touching and grounded documentary covers Overkill’s drummer and founder, Rat Skates, from his early days as a skateboarder to the time when he left the band. It starts off shaky and kind of amateurish (much like the early punk scene Skates came out of) and ends rather abruptly (you can tell there is much more to Skates’ story), but everything in between those points is something every metalhead/punk/musician should see.
Skates presents his take on how his life in the New Jersey music scene evolved. It begins with his days as part of The Lubricunts and ends with thrash pioneers Overkill. In those days myspace.com didn’t exist and there were no MP3s. Music fans had to trade tapes and read every fanzine they could get their hands on in order to discover the best bands out there. Skates brought that DIY attitude to Overkill. (Watch the band’s first video on MTV and you’ll see the standard stage set Overkill used, which was homemade with milkcrates and foam.) And while Skates was having the time of his life, not all was face paint and black roses.
Overkill, like every other band that gets a major label deal, found itself on the short end of the stick; money and label support were in equally short supplies. It’s the same old story, but every band has a different take on it and handles it a different way. Skates and Overkill were no different, and that’s what helped destroy the band.
At its core, this documentary shows that youthful energy and hard work can be very rewarding, but only when doing it for one’s self. Skates realized this and left Overkill at a point where there was still fame to be had. What surprised many was that it it was his band. It wasn’t something he was a mere part of. It was his in all aspects, and he turned his back on it. That takes guts, and you won’t find many musicians who are willing to do that. I just hope that one day we get to hear the rest of the story in a documentary as casual and informative as this one.